Former Valpo, Vandy coach takes reins of GCU program
(Phoenix, AZ) Three-time NCAA tournament head coach and March Madness legend Bryce Drew has been selected by Grand Canyon University to serve as its new men’s basketball head coach.
“We are unbelievably excited to have Bryce Drew lead our basketball program into its next phase of development,” GCU President Brian Mueller said. “Bryce built a very successful mid-major program at Valparaiso and proved he can recruit at a high level at Vanderbilt but, most importantly, he embodies the Christian mission of the University in how he lives his life both on and off the court.”
Drew, 45, is rooted in a basketball coaching tree that includes his College Basketball Hall of Fame father (Homer, a Valparaiso coaching great) and his older brother (Scott, a 17th-year Baylor head coach). The Drew trio has amassed 1,155 college coaching wins.
Drew becomes GCU’s 14th head coach in a role he has served successfully at his alma mater, Valparaiso, and at Vanderbilt, where he qualified for his third NCAA tournament visit as a head coach in 2017. Drew enters GCU with a career coaching record of 164-108 (.603), including a program-record season of 30 wins in his final year at Valparaiso.
“It begins with the mission of the University and the vibrant Christian atmosphere and how it’s moved out beyond the campus into the surrounding neighborhoods and the city,” Drew said. “My wife and I fell in love with the campus and the area. Even with the mission and how great the campus is, it has fantastic people.”
Drew said President Mueller, Interim Vice President of Athletics Jamie Boggs and GCU Strategic Adviser Jerry Colangelo are “just tremendous leaders. The vision that the president has for what he has done and what he wants to do with the University blew me and my wife away. That’s something we want to be a part of.”
With tireless recruiting and a positive on-court approach, Drew averaged 25 wins per season at Valparaiso and won the Horizon League regular-season championship four times during his five-year tenure (2011-16). He led the Crusaders to their first NCAA tournament berth in nine years with 2013 and 2015 visits.
Drew moved to Vanderbilt to take on the SEC challenge in 2016 and coached his first Commodores team to five wins against top-25 teams and an NCAA tournament berth. He came to the Phoenix area to land his first Vanderbilt recruit, Saben Lee, who starred this season with 18.6 points and 4.2 assists per game.
“I like building relationships and recruiting is building relationships,” Drew said. “To be able to go into a young man’s house and sit down with him to map out his future and then have them achieve those goals and dreams four years later is a great feeling. We love to help young men develop into Godly men and great husbands and hopefully win championships along the way.”
Drew continued the nationwide and international recruiting success by assembling the greatest class in program history in 2017, when he signed two five-star prospects. Each player suffered knee injuries, contributing to a losing 2018-19 season that peaked at 7-2 when Vanderbilt defeated then-No. 18 Arizona State. One of those players, Darius Garland, played five games that season but was still drafted fifth overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2019 NBA Draft.
“I have known the Drew family for decades,” Colangelo said. “I can’t think of a better coach and person to lead our basketball program going forward. He and his brother, Scott, represent all of the characteristics, on and off the court, that led their father, Homer, into the College Basketball Hall of Fame.”
For the past year, Drew worked as an ESPN studio and game analyst, visited college and pro coaches and spent time with his wife, Tara, and 5-year-old son, Bryson. Drew’s Christian faith has been embedded in his life, as a Fellowship of Christian Athletes member, Athletes in Action player and a coach at faith-based universities.
“GCU is such a unique university and, even with how successful it is now, I think it’s just scratching the surface for where it’s going to end up being,” Drew said. “What President Mueller has accomplished in a short amount of time is truly remarkable. I’m excited to get Grand Canyon even more on the national scene so they can see what a wonderful University it is as a whole.”
Drew played six NBA seasons after being drafted 16th overall by the Houston Rockets in 1998, where he started 41 games in 2000-01. In 1999, the NBA awarded him with the Henry P. Iba Citizen Athlete Award for sportsmanship.
The 6-foot-3 point guard, who also played for the Chicago Bulls and New Orleans Hornets, was known for his perimeter shot (37% 3-point shooting) but he is most famous for “The Shot” he made in college.
In a 1998 NCAA tournament first-round game, Valparaiso was trailing 69-67 with 2.5 seconds remaining when his father called for a play with a three-quarter court pass and a touch pass to a sideline-streaking Drew. He made a leaning 3-pointer from 23 feet to give the 13th-seeded Crusaders the upset win over fourth-seeded Mississippi.
Valparaiso kept the Cinderella slipper for another round, beating Florida State in overtime to become the program’s first Sweet 16 team. Drew finished with two Mid-Continent Conference Player of the Year awards and a school-record 2,142 points. He averaged 17.7 points and 5.2 assists for his career, which ended with All-America third-team honors. His No. 24 was retired at the northwest Indiana campus.
Drew grew up the youngest of three kids in a close-knit family with his brother, Scott, and his sister, Dana, who was a Mid-American Conference Player of the Year at Toledo. He won “Mr. Basketball,” Indiana’s top high school player award, for leading a Valparaiso High School team that went unbeaten until the 1994 state title game. He was recruited by Stanford, Notre Dame, Purdue and Syracuse, among others, but chose to stay in his town of 25,000 to play for his father.
Homer Drew put “Valpo” on the college basketball map, guiding the Crusaders to seven NCAA tournament appearances in his 22 seasons at the helm. He retired in 2002 for his oldest son, Scott, to take over the program but returned to the bench a year later for eight more seasons when Scott became Baylor’s head coach.
Scott Drew has turned around Baylor’s program. His Bears teams have gone 351-220, including this year’s 26-4 season that earned him Big 12 Coach of the Year honors and landed Baylor at No. 5 in the nation.
Drew’s style borrows from his father and older brother, recruiting high-character players and supporting them with uplifting on- and off-court mentorship. Once the ball is tipped, a fiery sideline competitiveness emerges and remains after a lifetime around basketball.
“From afar, I’ve heard about the Havocs and the atmosphere,” Drew said. “It already has a reputation for a great passion for basketball. I want to come in and win championships. I want to be able to get the school its first berth in the NCAA tournament. We want to recruit and bring on incredible student-athletes that are great representatives of Grand Canyon and the mission.”
Article by Paul Coro – GCU Athletics